On Saturday evening I made the long commute to the Holiday Inn Express in Clinton, NJ (a whopping 10 minute drive) for a ghost hunting event at the famous Red Mill. I used to have an apartment very close to the Mill--I could walk to it in about 15 minutes. Until I saw the Ghost Hunters episode on the Red Mill, I had no idea it was haunted. I visited it years ago when I was still married--I remember thinking it was a pretty spooky place. But I hadn't heard any of the stories in connection with the place.
According to Bruce Peabody, who is on the Board for the Mill Museum, the Mill was a pretty awful place to work--at different times in its history it has milled grain, plaster, talc, and graphite. The rooms had little ventilation, working conditions were unsafe, and men worked 12 hours or more per day. Some of the ghosts alleged to be there are of a woman who committed suicide by drinking lye, an Irish worker who was assaulted and hung by his co-workers, and a crabby foreman who makes very unkind remarks about women.
I was not sure how this investigation was going to go--when it's a pre-planned event involving tickets, you wonder how credible it will be. I was pleasantly surprised--they broke us up into 5 groups, with about 13-15 people in each group, and we did 5 separate 45-minute investigations. There are 4 floors to the Mill, and a bunch of outbuildings. We worked with a different professional investigator on each floor and outside--on the top floor was Dustin Pari of Ghost Hunters and Ghost Hunters International fame, on the 3rd floor was a woman known as CC the Huntress, a very sweet lady who made use of dowsing rods, and was a fan of "instant EVPs" (doing a rapid succession of questions and immediately checking the results), Kris Williams of Ghost Hunters on the 2nd floor, and Bruce Tango (known, as he says, as "Dave Tango's Dad") on the 1st floor. The outbuildings were investigated with a local medium named Arlene.
Before heading over to the Mill, we had a "meet and greet" with the celebrity investigators, and a question and answer period, followed by a debriefing on the site, and a viewing of the Ghost Hunters episode on the Red Mill. I probably chatted the most with Dustin Pari, who is my favorite investigator of all time--he's very easygoing, not melodramatic, has an ironic sense of humor, and above all--reminds me of my nephew Tucker. I feel almost like Dustin is MY nephew. (We're probably fairly close in age, so that's rather silly, but still...). He was very down to earth, very nice (he declared us "best buds" since I'd been in the front row chatting on and off with him for 20 minutes), and during the investigation, he answered a lot of questions for me.
I want to mention a couple of things from the Q&A. First--someone beat me to the question about the Ghost Hunters episode at Leap Castle in Ireland. In this episode, the "elemental" that is supposed to haunt Leap Castle actually lifted Dustin up and dropped him to the floor. He said that the floor had been covered in straw, but he managed to be dropped at the spot where there was no straw, and stone floors are quite hard. What I didn't know was that this didn't happen when they were formally filming. He said that the team had come in with the attitude of being "Americans who were going to show these Irish how it was done", and didn't take warnings about provoking very seriously. He said that he and Dave were heavily provoking, joking around--the barometric pressure began to drop, and Irish investigator Barry Fitzgerald (now also on Ghost Hunters International) came upstairs, warning them to stop provoking. They laughed and dismissed his warnings, and nothing actually happened while the cameras were running. It wasn't until they were packing up that Dustin was picked up and dropped--it was picked up by one of the hand-held video recorders only, and not the entire event. He said it made him think twice, to realize that you couldn't go into an investigation and be disrespectful, no matter how skeptical you might be about the paranormal.
Another interesting question was from a woman who asked about "encountering Satan" during their investigations. Dustin said they never encountered Satan, and said that any encounter with Satan is rare, if not non-existent. (I don't personally believe in a literal being called Satan--it's clear that Dustin does, but I think we reach the same conclusion). Dustin said that Satan has little interest in our lives, and he has "bigger fish to fry"--giving the Holocaust and September 11 as examples. Demonic possession is extremely rare--most of it can be relegated to the realm of psychological disorder. I was pleased that he mentioned that Ouija boards are not doorways to the Devil ("Parker Brothers does not have a contract with Satan"), but did mention that the mental fitness of those using such tools was often the main factor in whether or not there would be trouble. I also give him kudos for dismissing as nonsense the notion that 3:00 am (or 3:15 am for Amityville Horror fans) was any sort of "Devil hour that mocked Christ". I first heard this said by Ed Warren, and it has been repeated on episodes of Paranormal State by Ryan Buell, who is no doubt quoting the Warrens. I'm not dismissing the Warrens outright, but I agree with Jason Hawes--you have to take what they say with a grain of salt. It's especially refreshing because I know that Dustin is a devout Christian, and I'm glad that he's not sidetracked by these kinds of superstitions.
While investigating the fourth floor of the Mill, I had the opportunity to ask Dustin about my mother's strange case. I think I've mentioned in earlier blog postings that my Mom has been plagued by some kind of being when she lays down to go to sleep--it either breaths in her ear, or makes these loud repeated popping sounds. In some cases she thinks she hears a voice. I've noticed she sleeps with her Latin missal and rosary beads next to her bed. My father never hears what she hears, and says she's just imagining it. But I did hear it--when I went to Florida for my niece's graduation, I drove back with my parents, and we shared a hotel room. I could hear this strange popping noise in my parents' bed. I thought it was my father--but then my mother said, "Brigid, do you hear that?" I said, "Yes, isn't that Dad?" She said, "No, it's not. It's that thing I was telling you about." So, I sat up, observed, and listened. Finally I said, "Mom, that's coming from YOU. You're generating that." But she has never believed me. Now, asking Dustin, he agreed that it could very well be a stress phenomenon, especially since my mother was past menopause. He said he has seen such cases, and the only way to dissipate the entity is through stress management via exercise and/or counseling. There are cases where people are haunted by entities, but often they invite them in for similar reasons, with a similar remedy.
CC the Huntress had some interesting EVPs while the previous group on her floor was present, and apparently an old-fashioned sewing machine started up by itself. Not much happened while we were there. On the second floor, we experienced Kris Williams' approach to ghost hunting. For one thing, she tries not to be too "serious"--we're sitting around hoping to contact dead people, how silly is that? She's also a great provoker--when nothing is happening, she starts saying provocative things. She related an incident on the Ghost Hunters show, when they were filming in a location that she thought was pretty lame. Nothing happened--she did her provoking and got nothing. As they were packing up, Steve Gonsalves asked if she was ready to leave. "Yes, this place is lame," she replied. Their DVRs were still running, and later upon review, Kris heard a man say, "Get that bitch out of here" after she made her comment about the place. So--back to what Dustin said about being respectful. Though Kris does have a point--if nothing happens, sometimes this rudeness is the only way to make things happen.
On the first floor we worked with Bruce Tango, who told us that an earlier group experienced movement in one of the drill bits hanging from the ceiling. It wasn't just a slight motion--it was an actual rotation, like a pendulum. When someone asked it to spin the other way--it stopped and began to spin the other way. During our investigation there, we heard a loud bang, and one woman felt something touch her--like a bug smacking into her head, but there was no bug. There were a few cold spots, but not much else happened. While working with Arlene, we went to the schoolhouse on the grounds, and the tenant house. She did some medium readings in the schoolhouse--they were relevant to others, but not me. Which is not surprising--I try not to hold onto those who have passed. The medium talked about her own experiences, especially in the tenant house. While she was talking, several members of our group heard footsteps on the level above us. No one else was in the house with us. I, sadly, did not hear the footsteps. I have heard that this is a common phenomenon in that building.
Usually in haunted places, I get a feeling in my gut, and my hairs stand on end on my body, as if electrified. I didn't have that feeling at the Mill, though I was experiencing on-and-off sinus headaches from the high humidity, and drastic temperature changes between the upper and lower floors of the Mill. The resulting shakes I had made it difficult to tell if I had any other sensations about the place.
All in all, it was an interesting investigation. I had a digital voice recorder running for all 4 hours of the investigation, and I still need to review it. Dustin Pari encouraged those with recorders to send any possible EVP clips to him at his website. I certainly will, if I find any in review.
I also recommend that local NJ residents become members of the Clinton Mill Museum--you would get free admission to the Museum, and information about a lot of ghost walks and paranormal events that go on there regularly. And it's a piece of history worth preserving, whether you believe in ghosts or not.